How to delete the Windows.old folder on Windows 10

If your PC is low on space, there’s little doubt that at one point or another you’ve been eyeing up your Windows.old folder. This folder can occupy a hefty amount of storage that you can’t afford to lose if your operating system is on a small SSD or micro-SD card. But how to delete Windows.old, and is it even safe? We’ll be answering these questions in today’s tutorial. Let’s start with the most asked question:

Can I delete Windows.old?

Short answer, yes. But you may have gathered that by the fact that this tutorial exists. Removing the Windows.old folder, however, isn’t always as simple as clicking on it and pressing the delete key. This is why there’s often confusion.

Advertisement

The more pertinent question, then, is if Windows.old is safe to delete. The answer to this question really depends on your situation, so it helps to understand what Windows.old is. 

Windows.old is typically stored on your C:\ drive, and like the name suggests, stores an old version of Windows. More specifically, your old version of Windows, before you refreshed, upgraded, or performed a custom install of Windows on the same partition as your previous installation.

If you chose to “keep” nothing during your refresh or upgrade, the folder will contain your personal files from the previous installation. As a result, you should only delete it if you’re sure there’s nothing there you need. When you remove Windows.old, you also remove your ability to roll back to your previous version of Windows, so keep that in mind.

After ten days, Microsoft will automatically delete Windows.old from your drive. If you’re patient, then, you don’t need to take any action to remove it. If you need the storage space now, you can follow the steps below. Just make sure you copy across anything you need first:

How to Delete Windows.old and $Windows.~BT Folders in Disk Cleanup

As well as Windows.old, we’ll be showing you how to remove the $Windows.~BT folder, which is used to roll back to earlier versions of Windows. The most user-friendly way to do so is via the Disk Cleanup tool, which provides a handy interface.

  1. Open Disk Cleanup
     

    Press Start or the search button and type “Disk Cleanup”, then click on the top result.

    Windows 10 - Open Disk Cleanup

  2. Press “Clean up system files”
     

    You’ll have to provide admin approval to continue the process.

    Windows 10 - Disk Cleanup - Clean Up System Files

  3. Tick Previous Windows Installation(s) and press “OK”
     

    If a confirmation dialog pops up, press “Delete Files”. It will take a minute or two for Disk Cleanup to delete Windows.old and $Windows.~BT from your system.

    Windows 10 - Disk Cleanup - Clean Up System Files - Check Previous Windows Installation

How to Remove Windows.old and $Windows.~BT Folders via Storage Settings

As you’d expect, the Windows 10 settings app is also quite an intuitive way to remove Windows.old and $Windows.~BT. It does essentially the same thing as above, but looks prettier.

  1. Open Settings
     

    Press the “Start” button, then click the settings cog, above the power button. Alternatively, press Windows + I.

    Windows 10 - Open Settings

  2. Click on “System”
     

    Windows 10 - Settings - Open System

  3. Open “Storage” settings from the sidebar, then click “Temporary files”
     

    Windows 10 - Settings - System - Storage - Open Temporary Files

  4. Tick “Previous Windows installation(s) and press “Remove files”
     

    The process to delete Windows.old will start and should be complete in a few minutes.

    Windows 10 - Settings - System - Storage - Temporary Files - Check PRevious Windows Installation - Remove Files

Removing Old Windows Versions via Elevated Command Prompt

If you don’t have access to a UI, or just prefer the command line, you can use the trusty Command Prompt to remove WIndows.old and $Windows.~BT.

  1. Open Command Prompt as an admin
     

    Press the Start button and type “Command Prompt”, then click “Run as administrator” on the right-hand side.

    Windows 10 - open CMD with admin rights

  2. Take ownership of the Windows.old folder
     

    Before you can delete Windows.old, you need to wrestle control of it from your operating system. This is to avoid accidental deletion and modification. Run the following command to do so:

    takeown /F "C:\Windows.old" /A /R /D Y

     

    Windows 10 CMD admin - takeown

  3. Wait for the completion message
     

    It should read something like:

    SUCCESS: The file (or folder): "C:\Windows.old\assembly\GAC_MSIL\System.Deployment.Resources..." now owned by the administrators group.

    Once complete, you’ll be able to type commands again from the C:\ drive.

    Windows 10 CMD admin - takeown - finished

  4. Run the Windows.old delete command
     

    Finally, we can use the icals command to modify the access control list, followed by the folder selection command:

    icacls "C:\Windows.old" /grant *S-1-5-32-544:F /T /C /Q
    RD /S /Q "C:\Windows.old"

    If you’d like to delete the Windows BT folder, repeat the command above but with the file path to BT instead:

    takeown /F "C:\$Windows.~BT\*" /A /R /D Y
    icacls "C:\$Windows.~BT\*.*" /grant *S-1-5-32-544:F /T /C /Q
    icacls "C:\$Windows.~BT\*.*" /grant *S-1-5-32-544:F /T /C /Q

    You can close the Command Prompt window when you’re done.

    Windows 10 CMD admin - icacls windows.old and RD windows.old

How to Delete Windows.old Folder via a Command Prompt at Boot

If you can’t get take ownership to work, you can also delete Windows.old via Command Prompt at boot. First, boot to Advanced Startup by following our dedicated guide. One advantage of this method is that you won’t need to take ownership of the folder.

  1. Click on “Troubleshoot”
     

    Windows 10 - Advanced Startup Options - Open Troubleshoot

  2. Select “Advanced options”
     

    Windows 10 - Advanced Startup Options - Troubleshoot - Open Advanced Options

  3. Click on “Command Prompt”
     

    Windows 10 - Advanced Startup Options - Troubleshoot - Advanced Options - Open Command Prompt

  4. Enter diskpart
     

    In your Command Prompt window, type diskpart and press Enter.

    Windows 10 - Advanced Startup Options - Command Prompt - Type and Enter Diskpart

  5. Rum the list volume command
     

    Run the list volume command, then look for the drive letter of your Windows 10 drive under the ltr column. For 98% of people, this should be the C drive. Check the size to see if it matches.

    Note down this drive letter.

    Windows 10 - Advanced Startup Options - Command Prompt - Diskpart - Type and Enter List Volume - Verify Drive Letter

  6. Type “exit” and press Enter
     

    Windows 10 - Advanced Startup Options - Command Prompt - Diskpart - List Volume - Drive Letter - Type Exit

  7. Run the delete Windows.old command
     

    Run the following command to remove theWindows.old folder, replacing C:\ with your drive letter if necessary:

    RD /S /Q "C:\Windows.old"

    Close your Command Prompt Window and click “Continue” to boot into your OS.

    Windows 10 - Advanced Startup Options - Command Prompt - Diskpart - List Volume -Drive Letter - Exit - Type and Enter the Cmd

How to Cleanup the WinSxS Folder and Enable CompactOS

If you’re still struggling for space, you can follow our guide on how to cleanup the WinSxS folder to free up a little more. If you’re still struggling after that, you may have to take more drastic measures like enabling CompactOS, which may affect performance.

Advertisement